How "Best Places to Work" retailer Dunelm used world-class technology to drive 600% increase in communications engagement during COVID-19 pandemic

Dunelm is the UK’s leading home furnishing retailer, operating across 169 superstores throughout the country. The company currently employs 10,500 staff across their stores, head offices, call centers and warehouses, and was featured on Glassdoor’s "Best Places to Work" annual list in 2019. What first started as a discounts platform has emerged as an all-in-one wellbeing, communications, recognition and discounts hub that’s central to the Dunelm culture. 

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Number of employees:



Number of locations:


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Platform features:

Employee communications, peer-to-peer recognition, employee wellbeing, employee surveys

The challenge:

Dunelm discounts mockupDunelm’s journey with Reward Gateway started back in 2017, when its HR and Reward teams were researching options for a user-friendly platform that would take their discounts and Employee Value Proposition to the next level. 

Due to the size and scale of its workforce, Dunelm was also struggling to find the perfect way to connect every member of staff within the business. There was no central hub for employees to securely log into and get the information they need within a few clicks. In fact, many of the shop floor and warehouse staff didn’t have an email address and rarely used a computer as part of their day-to-day role.

Fast forward to 2020 and, like most retailers, Dunelm’s attention has been fixed firmly on employee communications, staff wellbeing and remote engagement as they navigate the global pandemic, with the platform being a critical support in these areas.

The approach:

Reward Gateway immediately got to work on creating a customized range of discounts that would engage Dunelm’s broad staff demographic. The entire process needed to be as seamless as possible, so that all employees could easily log on, browse and apply for the discounts they wanted with minimal fuss. 

From there, Dunelm decided to build more initiatives into the platform – dubbed internally as "Home Comforts" – including recognition pieces, eCards and a company-wide news feed. And as the events of 2020 unfolded, it quickly became clear to HR and senior management that the Home Comforts hub could play a vital role in their communications and content strategy.

Ben Waterfield, Internal Comms Manager at Dunelm, says:

“There have been periods this year when our stores needed to close completely and the platform naturally became the main way to stay in touch with everyone. It has allowed us to communicate key updates and video messages from our senior leaders two or three times per week and, more importantly, we can actually see the engagement, likes, comments and feedback from staff that have viewed the content – and then act on it!"

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Thriving in the face of adversity

Dunelm wellbeing mockup

As a retailer dealing with the mass exodus of employees, Dunelm has faced huge challenges in keeping their workforce healthy, happy and engaged, so the HR team was quick to prioritize employee wellbeing and provide support for all members of staff when the pandemic hit.

Dunelm also launched an initiative called "Colleague Support Fund" during its furlough period, which allowed staff to apply for a 20% salary bonus directly through the platform, providing extra financial support during tough times.

As for peer-to-peer recognition, Ben’s team has seen uptake of their eCard system soar since launching in late 2019, particularly in response to the pandemic. This provides staff with a quick and easy way to acknowledge the efforts of their fellow colleagues, though it also helps bring great work to the attention of senior leaders and generate a real sense of community throughout all corners of the organization.

“The eCard system has become embedded as a key part of our culture over the past year,” Ben adds. “It’s so powerful to see the likes, comments and shares that these recognitions get, not just from the people who receive them but equally all the people in the team. We also like to keep things fresh by introducing new designs and messages every few months, something which Reward Gateway always supports us on.”

The results:

Dunelm eCards mockupThe extra focus Dunelm has placed on employee communications and content in response to the pandemic has yielded fantastic results. Communications engagement is up by 600% since February, a massive increase driven by their commitment to posting regular company updates, wellbeing content and videos from senior management through the employee communications platform Home Comforts.

It’s clear to see that Dunelm’s workforce are engaging with the platform at all organizational levels – and on a regular basis too. On average, each employee logs into Home Comforts 169 times per year, which works out roughly to once every two or three days. 

The company’s eCard system has also been rapidly gaining popularity with over 8,600 eCards sent during the past 12 months alone. As it stands, over half of staff (51%) have either sent or received a personal recognition through the platform. 

What’s more, Dunelm’s approach to people management and employee experience has led them to secure high ranks on Glassdoor’s "Best Places to Work" list, thanks in part to the tools and tech it has in place.

“Our Glassdoor reviews have actually increased massively from the moment we put the platform in place,” Ben adds. “A big part of that is simply having a dedicated tile on the homescreen where our colleagues can leave a quick comment about their working experience. 

“Now we regularly check against how we benchmark against other retailers and it’s become a major benefit to our recruitment team as they often get new hires who mention part of their decision to apply was seeing the reputation we have on Glassdoor. So, not only are we saving money through staff discounts, going completely paperless with our communications and driving wellbeing, we’re also engaging new hires before they’ve even started with us. You almost can’t put a price on that.”

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